Making an accurate judgement on a footballer at one moment in time can be a difficult task. Agents, managers, chairmen and scouts are all tasked with making potentially life-changing calls on a player, with no guarantee that their decision will prove justified.
Liverpool can be glad with a judgement from their near neighbours Everton back in 2007 regarding a six-year-old named Curtis Jones. As reported on Sunday by Simon Hughes for The Athletic, the Toffees had looked at the youngster back in 2007 before rejecting him in the belief that he was too cocky and modelled himself on Cristiano Ronaldo. With the Goodison Park outfit tossing him aside, their Anfield rivals gladly stepped in and recruited the boy.
Thirteen years later, the Merseyside neighbours locked horns in an FA Cup clash at Anfield. Not even the status of a local derby could dissuade Liverpool manager from making nine changes to his starting XI from the Reds’ previous game, with an 18-year-old Jones among the beneficiaries. He produced the defining moment of the match, curling a breathtaking shot over Jordan Pickford and into the visitors’ net for the only goal of a tight encounter. Had Everton’s academy coaches viewed the midfielder differently as a six-year-old, he may well have been administering the pain to the home fans at Anfield rather than those in the away end that January evening.
That may be the present highlight of Jones’ fledgling senior career, which currently spans just nine matches, but he has shown enough in his other eight Liverpool appearances to suggest that he is no flash in the pan. He was describe by talkSPORT as “the talk of the Reds’ pre-season tour” of USA in 2018 and put in a man of the match display against MK Dons on just his second competitive appearance for Klopp’s side.
He proved cool under pressure when dispatching the winning penalty in a thrilling Carabao Cup tie against Arsenal five months ago and, shortly after his 19th birthday, captained a youthful Liverpool team in an FA Cup replay win over Shrewsbury, becoming the youngest-ever wearer of the armband for a Reds first team game. While he was unable to prevent the Merseysiders from exiting against Chelsea in the next round, his performance that night was commended by many Liverpool supporters.
Jones has only played 19 minutes of Premier League football so far, coming on as a late substitute when wins over Bournemouth and West Ham were pretty much assured, and has yet to feature in the Champions League. However, for a player of his tender years to score a sensational Merseyside derby winner, captain Liverpool in a first team fixture and score a decisive penalty in a tense shoot-out would suggest that he has a fighting chance of nailing down a long-term place in Klopp’s squad. He already made Everton pay with that winning goal back in January and, if his development continues in the same vein as it has evolved over the last six months, he looks set to deepen the regret that certain Goodison Park staff must feel over rejecting him as a six-year-old who apparently displayed too much self-belief.
Liverpool fans, how grateful are you over Everton’s decision to reject Jones when he was six? Do you think he can establish himself in the Reds’ first team in the near future? Have your say by commenting below!